Humans work in teams all the time, especially when it comes to building things. Did you know it took over five thousand workers to build the bridge that connects New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island?
We aren’t the only creatures that work well in teams … or the only ones that build bridges! Ants work together to build bridges and roads all the time. Their bridges are maybe even more impressive than the ones humans make. Why? They don’t need any training!
Another remarkable example of tool use in ants: fire ants “paving” sticky surfaces. I’ve seen signs of this behavior, but I didn’t expect it to be so robust until my friend told me about it (Wang et al., 2021 Insect Science). pic.twitter.com/BaHBmlgtXM
— Horace Zeng (@horacezhl) March 14, 2022
Fire ants are known for stinging humans (not cool, ants!), but they’re also known for their building skills.
A study from South China Agricultural University found that fire ants use particles around them (like soil or gravel) to make bridges over sticky surfaces, such as ant traps and insect repellant. This gives them an advantage over other ant species.
Researchers filmed them using these skills to pave their way over a sticky surface to form a bridge that led to a yummy reward!
Teamwork makes the dream work
If that’s not impressive enough, fire ants can literally turn their own bodies into floating rafts, too. They do this by clinging on to each other with their sticky foot pads, claws, and mouths. And they keep themselves buoyant with bubbles and help from their waterproof exoskeleton.
What other insects work well as a team?
Ants aren’t the only insects that work well in groups.
Bees are known to be some of the most hard-working critters out there, and they’re really only successful when they work together. A honeybee colony usually has 20,000 to 80,000 bees working together to keep the hive up and running!
Termites live in even bigger colonies. These are made up of about one million individual termites! Each individual has a distinct role within the group to make sure the work gets done and the colony thrives.
Maybe we could learn a few things from our small, multi-legged friends!
When was the last time you worked in a team?